Symphony of Light” – Soundtrack – AMNH 2012

Symphony of Light” – Soundtrack – AMNH 2012

Symphony of Light” – Soundtrack – AMNH 2012

After a great dosis of inspiration courtesy of the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I started thinking about the role of music and its emotional effect on three-dimensional storytelling. I started to wonder how to create music to really immerse yourself on a story and on a place that is so obviously theatrical. How could we make our visitors feel this show, instead of think it?

Shaping the Symphony of Light

We had six sections in the show, each with a strong set of characters, immersive design and interactive dynamics. We needed six movements in our symphony, each one of which would tell you the story of our “Creatures of Light”.

I sat in front of the show’s floor-plan and started imagining what the space would tell us about the creatures. What were these creatures doing by lighting up? What was the mood set by the space? What types of interactives were we developing to tell these stories and what was the feeling each one of these conveyed? I started drawing the areas covered by each movement –specifying major/minor chords and the pace- depending on the emotions I wanted to convey and the dynamics created by the interactive pieces.

At this point I brought Sarah Galloway to collaborate on the project. Sarah is not only a great storyteller but a wonderful musician as well. We listened to our favorite classic pieces to look for inspiration and sat with our instruments to compare notes on moods and paces. Finally, once we knew what we wanted, we hired Tom Phillips, a talented composer that would finally be the real artist in this project. We discussed the piece for hours, listening to Prokofiev, Stravinski and the other russians to understand the level of passion we wanted to convey. Sarah, who has created soundscapes for videos for years, proposed some environmental sounds to it, so we would also convey more of the creature’s real contexts. We analyzed every note of the music to avoid cuteness or sappiness, a great risk when you talk about mating or death, both important themes in the life of every bioluminescent creature.

The Sections

Fireflies –Enchanted Evening

The first section of the show was about how fireflies communicate to mate. A pattern of light serves both males and females to identify each other, flirt and pick. Fireflies live for two years, but it is not until the last two weeks of their lives that they light to mate. It is a summer-night fertile dialogue. Thinking about this made me want to hear happy music. Something cheerful and sweet, with major chords and an allegro pace. It needed to feel like a burst of life.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Glow Worms –Things may not be what they seem

Bioluminescense in this section occurs in remote caves, where some tiny glow-worms create strings of luminescent gel to trap their prey. These caves are dark and silent and have internal rivers going through them. They are scary and magical at the same time. Silence and water are the natural sounds of this environment, so we made a quiet movement for it. Something that evoked mystery.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dinoflagelates –A Sparkling Sea

This was one of the most important sections of the show. We designed the space to represent an interactive “lagoon” surrounded by mangroves where luminescent dinoflagelates –microscopic algae- glow at night. The section was inspired by a trip I made to Puerto Rico. I knew the feeling of wonder, magic, amazement that one would feel when bathing with the dinoflagelates, so I envisioned an interactive that allowed you to “swim” with these projected creatures and as for the music, I thought about something happy but quiet, something that invited you to have a slow dance. I had originally thought about major chords, but Tom’s minor chords worked much better. It is a walz, and it completely transforms the experience. People dance in this section. They get lost in the magic of the interactive dinoflagelates, who respond to their movements. Read more about this experience here.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Coral Reefs –Altered Light

This section’s design presents a huge projected coral reef, where fluorescent creatures glow at night. The dynamic of the interactive is exploratory. Visitors can only find the creatures by shooting UV light to the coral reef, so the music had to convey the mystery of the dark, an exploratory tone and the underwater nature of the environment. Tom diverged from his traditional classical instruments here and went for an obscure instrument that makes undulating sounds.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Jelly Fish –A glowing ballet

Jellies are both bioluminescent and fluorescent. They emit their own light and that light makes the fluorescent parts shine. It is a fantastic and mysterious creature. For this I wanted an adagio, something ballet-like that conveyed their fragility and the peacefulness of their movement and rhythmic light.

Predator & Prey –The Deep Ocean

This last section was about the different relationships between the creatures that live in that limbo of darkness that you find where both the surface and the ocean floor are miles away. Here, all kinds of strange creatures talk to each other, hunt each other and disguised themselves by using light. It was a place full of fear and drama. Sarah was making a video for this section, so the music needed to match the story. Of the movements, this is the most narrative.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Finally, we installed the symphony to play every movement in a loop, all of them simultaneously in each section of the gallery, for which each movement had to have the same length. Also, each movement needed ups and downs, and these needed to happen at the same time, so the sound would not travel through the gallery, overwhelming the other movements. It was a complex piece to install. We brought Russell Baird to the team (AV engineer) to help us spec the system and the installation.

Publisher:
American Museum of Natural History, 2012
Project:
“Creatures of Light” Exhibition
Format:
Classic Symphony in six movements
Team:
Helene Alonso, Sarah Galloway, Tom Phillips, Russell Baird.
 

Leave a Reply

Name*

e-Mail * (will not be published)

Website